Use Halloween to Release Negativity
How an ancient calendar can improve your mental health
*** Note: You do not have be spiritual or religious at all to incorporate the recommended practices into your life. Take what works for you, and leave behind what doesn’t!
If you’re looking for an easy, intuitive, and profoundly effective way to feel more present, manage your stress, and improve your state of mind, the Pagan Wheel of the Year might be right for you. I’ve been using it for the past several years as a guide to live more seasonally and more aligned with nature.
What is the Wheel of the Year?
The Wheel divides the year into eight segments that correspond to the movement of the sun and to major agricultural milestones. It was used by nature-based religions that predated Christianity, and is used today by the neo-Pagan community. The use of the wheel is a reminder of the cyclical nature of the seasons, the never-ending dance between life and death, between cold winters and the bounty of summer.
The eight Sabbats are:
- Oct: 31: Samhain — The highest holiday (more on that below)
- Dec 21st: Yule (Winter Solstice)
- Feb 1: Imbolc (Pre-Spring)
- Mar 21: Ostara (Spring Equinox)
- May 1: Beltane (Planting)
- Jun 21: Litha (Summer Solstice)
- Aug 1: Lammas (First Harvest)
- Sep 21: Mabon (Autumn Equinox)
Each Sabbat is associated with its own lore, but for this post, I want to focus on the wheel as a framework to create more balance, connection, and presence in our daily lives. This feels especially important with the chaos swirling around us.
Why should I use it?
- We’re disconnected from nature. We spend our days inside offices (or now, our homes) all year round. We don’t give a second-thought to the seasons. How many times have you looked up in surprise and thought to yourself, “Wow, I can’t believe it’s already (insert whatever season here).” With our productivity obsessed pace, its easy to to lose track of time. The Wheel acts as a gentle reminder to stop and acknowledge each season, a natural pause to check in with yourself. The Wheel helps us work in alignment with nature, to tune into these energy ebbs and flows to maximize our own creativity.
- We are addicted to technology. Our current technological landscape is all about speed. We expect everything to happen quickly, from getting a text back to our Amazon Prime delivery and it’s easy to forget that many things take time. The Wheel is an exercise in patience. There is a time for planting, a time for harvest, and, most importantly, a time to let the soil rest.
- It’s an easy way to bring peace into your life. I don’t know about you, but this year has been stressful beyond measure. A low-ask, super relaxed way to gently incorporate some mindfulness and relieve some of this tension? Yes please.
Ok, I’m in. What’s this about Samhain?
Samhain, is the Pagan new year. It’s rooted in traditions that focus on honoring the dead: our ancestors and those who have passed away this year. While thinking about death might be uncomfortable, the Wheel is a reminder that death is a natural part of life, something to be celebrated and respected, not feared. We honor the end of the harvest, and the acknowledge winter’s approach.
For the non-spiritual practitioner, you can ask yourself: what needs to die so that you can continue to thrive and grow? Many of the rituals around Samhain focus on letting go of things: expectations, habits, beliefs, angers, resentments. Anything that no longer serves you is symbolically sent into the fire to be released.
This is a time to let go.
How do I celebrate it?
That’s really up to you!
Here’s what I do:
- I’ll drink a glass of cider or wine in honor of any loved ones that passed away this year. A few months ago, I said goodbye to my Grandfather. I’ll spend some time thinking about him, and the other loved ones I’ve lost over the past years.
- I’ll light a candle in honor of my ancestors — all the people who sacrificed and fought and died so that I could live the life I have today. It’s good to remember them, and to see ourselves as part of a greater whole.
- I’ll go take a look at my garden. Everything has been harvested, and the plants are dying. I’ll give thanks for all the food those plants provided over the last several months: baskets full of courgettes, peppers, cucumbers, lettuce, green beans, tomatoes, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, watermelon, aubergines, cherries, blackberries, strawberries, and rhubarb. It’s officially time to close out the garden and let the earth rest until next year.
- I’ll write down everything that I want to let go of this year and burn it in the fireplace (or in a fire-proof container if you don’t have one). I’ll write down worries, fears, anxieties, and then set them on fire! We could all do with shedding some of the mental burdens we’ve carried this year.
- I’ll meditate and journal. It’s all about introspection and pausing.
Too many people dismiss the Wheel of the Year because they get scared of the word Pagan. They think it involves some religious practice — and for many people it does, but it’s by no means necessary. You can be an atheist and still benefit from marking this occasion. As you see in this post, we can learn from tuning into nature, from paying attention to cycles of life and death, from marking the end of the seasons to help us be calm, centered, and happy. And if you are religious, feel free to use your own prayers, deities, or whatever makes you feel connected and aligned.
In addition to releasing anything that is holding me back, I also find that having a dedicated day to honor those we’ve lost helps with grief. This year has been one chaotic twist after another and I realized that I never gave myself the proper time or space to sit with my grandfather’s memory. To properly say goodbye.
The wheel turns, and life goes on. All we can do is make the best of whatever time we’ve been given, with the people we love for as long as we’re lucky to have them.
Have a great holiday weekend!